The next Programme for Government needs to work harder for children and families, say children's groups

Published date: 
4 Feb 2020


The next Programme for Government needs to work harder for children and families, say children's groups


Today (04.02.2020), the Children’s Rights Alliance joins forces with its members Barnardos, ISPCC,, The Ark and Young Social Innovators to give a platform to children and young people in the final run up to election day.

The children’s and youth groups came together to host a children’s hustings with representatives from the leading parties, the first in a series of events that aim to put children and young people’s issues on the political agenda. The hustings heard from young people across the country today, who raised questions and concerns around issues including housing, direct provision, mental health, education and climate action.

Speaking ahead of the hustings, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance commented on the significance of the event, “Little has been said so far in the debates about children and families and what political parties will do when it comes to taking action on the issues that have a significant impact on young people and their families. Young people will not get the opportunity to vote for the next Government, so we wanted to create a space where young people could have their voices heard in this election campaign.

It is telling that many of the issues being raised by young people are the very ones getting sidelined in the political debates thus far. Our primary focus for the last year has been to out a spotlight on child poverty and we believe the more we hear from the young people, the parents and the frontline workers who experience these issues every day, the harder it will be for political leaders to ignore them.”

Suzanne Connolly, Chief Executive of Barnardos stated, “In elections vulnerable children do not have a voice unless someone speaks up for them. And to date those seeking our votes are not listening. Through targeted investment and reform, the next government can deliver real and sustainable change and ensure that all children in Ireland have the same life chances. Failing to do so is neither fiscally prudent or just.”

John Church, Chief Executive of the ISPCC commented, “We join the call on candidates to put children first in the next Programme for Government. Children and young people who seek support from Childline tell us about their experiences with issues including online safety and mental health. We are delighted that this hustings event gives them an opportunity to raise these with candidates who may play a crucial role in deciding the next four or five years of political priorities.”

Ian Power, Chief Executive of added, “Children and young people are engaged with this general election more than any other before because of their activism on issues like the climate crisis, mental health and international protection for their classmates. Although promises to widen voting rights to 16 and 17 year olds have not been delivered on, it doesn't mean children and young people are sitting this one out, they are engaged and they are asking questions. The Children's Hustings is an excellent opportunity to find out what parties and candidates will do for children and young people in the 33rd Dáil and given the numbers of 18 year olds we have seen registering to vote in recent weeks, their voices will make a difference when the ballots are counted."

“Children have the right to be heard in all matters that affect them. Despite this, children’s voices are notably absent from this election debate,” said Aideen Howard, Chief Executive of The Ark. “We are committed to standing with children and doing our best to amplify their voices. The hustings puts children front and centre in democratic discourse and allows them to raise questions, inequalities and issues that affect them. We are proud to partner with our colleagues to make children seen and heard at this event at The Ark today. We look forward to hearing from the assembled young people and from The Ark Children’s Council on the issues that affect them.”

Rachel Collier, Chief Executive of Young Social Innovators stated, “Young people have proven that they can be a powerful force for change when given the opportunity to engage. They have an important role to play in helping address social issues affecting them and their communities and in shaping the type of society they would like to live in. We ask all parties for their support for the widespread delivery of social innovation education as a way of engaging and empowering young people to take action for a fairer, more inclusive and sustainable world and of having their voices heard.”

The Children’s Hustings is being hosted in the The Ark, 11A Eustace Street, Dublin and online on the Children’s Rights Alliance Facebook at 10am, Tuesday 4 February.

: Emma Archbold, Children’s Rights Alliance, Tel: 01-662 9400 / 0879971410, Email:

Notes to Editor:
The following spokespeople are available for interview:
Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance
Suzanne Connolly, Chief Executive of Barnardos
John Church, Chief Executive of the ISPCC
Ian Power, Chief Executive of
Aideen Howard, Chief Executive of The Ark
Rachel Collier, Chief Executive of Young Social Innovators
Young speakers are available on request.

Children’s Rights Alliance Election Manifesto is available here.

About the Children’s Rights Alliance
• Founded in 1995, the Children’s Rights Alliance unites over 100 members working together to make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child. Further information is available at: or on Twitter, @ChildRightsIRL.
• The Children’s Rights Alliance Helpline is open Mondays 10am to 2pm and Wednesdays 2pm to 7pm. If you have are looking for legal information or advice, please contact us on 01 902 0494 or email